Community Gardens Project grows up 

Successful first season for community green houses helped fill food bank’s cupboards


The first summer of Whistler’s Community Greenhouse project has been a great success.

More than 50 families enjoyed the fruits of their labour and Whistler’s food bank got fresh vegetables every week all summer long.

"…It was great to get the vegetables," said Sandra McCarthy, food bank co-ordinator.

The food bank got, on average, two 10-gallon buckets of vegetables each week from the Community Gardens Project.

The beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and other goods were snapped up by those in need. Indeed, said McCarthy, she could have given away lots more vegetables if they had been available.

"I know the project was just feeling things out this summer and I’m hoping there will be even more available next year," she said.

"It was really good for the kids. People were overwhelmed by it. They just couldn’t believe it and they thought it was pretty special and they loved that it was organic."

The Community Gardens Project was the brainchild of local psychologist and citizen of the year Dr. Stephen Milstein.

"Everyone was stunned by how much things grew," said Milstein, who has his own prolific greenhouse at home.

There were hurdles though as the project got up and running.

The irrigation system at the Myrtle Philip greenhouse got plugged by minerals in the water, forcing growers to resort to hand watering.

However, the golden lining to this problem, said Milstein, was that the high mineral content of the water meant condensation on the inside of the plastic turned the roof and sides opaque, protecting the plants from the burning heat of this summer’s intense sun.

Indeed the project is planning on fundraising to replace the clear plastic greenhouse domes with opaque ones for this reason.

Ventilation was also an issue this summer said Milstein. For the coming growing season he hopes to fundraise then install large fans at the ends of the building instead of having to get volunteers to lift and lower flaps along the side of the greenhouses everyday.

The soil will also get a boost with some organic manure for the coming season, to help increase the productivity of the soil.

To date there are three greenhouses, two at Spruce Grove and one on the lower field at Myrtle Philip school, which this year was dedicated to growing food for the food bank. Each is 20 feet by 40 feet and holds 18 raised boxes.

What thrilled Milstein about the project was the way it got people together from all over the community.

"It helped create community," he said. "It had tremendous value in connecting people as well as growing vegetables."


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